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Tupelo forced to forfeit; Warren Central advances to round two

It wasn’t the kind of win that Warren Central wanted, but it is the kind that is becoming the accepted norm in 2020.

Warren Central was awarded a forfeit victory over Tupelo in its MHSAA Class 6A football playoff opener Friday afternoon because of a COVID-19 outbreak among Tupelo’s roster.

Warren Central (9-2) advanced to the second round and will go on the road to play Clinton next week. Clinton beat Horn Lake 35-7 in a first-round game Friday night.

The Warren Central-Tupelo game was the ninth MHSAA playoff game this week, and first in Class 6A, to be canceled and declared a forfeit because of COVID-19 issues. A number of early-season basketball and soccer games have also been postponed or canceled because of a spike in cases across Mississippi.

“All we’re doing is everything we can do,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “We were prepared to play and would love to play. We just didn’t get that opportunity.”

Vicksburg Warren School District athletic director Preston Nailor said Tupelo reported some cases early in the week, but a third case — the threshold for what is considered an outbreak that requires a mandatory quarantine — was not reached until Friday.

“This is the story of 2020,” Nailor said. “We feel for them, because it was game day. They were preparing all week for this and then this happens at the last minute.”

Warren Central’s football team had already left for Tupelo when it got the news about the forfeit shortly before 1 p.m. Friday. Morgan said the team was preparing to stop for lunch near Louisville, around the halfway point of the nearly four-hour trip, when they got the call.

“We were going to stop and eat our pregame meal. We stopped, ate, and then came home,” Morgan said.

This is the fourth time this season that Warren Central has been awarded a forfeit victory because of another team’s COVID-related issues. Greenville and Murrah both opted not to play at all this season because of concerns about the virus. Starkville forfeited its game against the Vikings on Oct. 30 because of an outbreak at its school that sent the football team into a two-week quarantine.

When the Vikings take the field for their second-round game next week, it will be their first game they since Oct. 30 vs. South Panola. That game was moved up a week when the Starkville game was canceled, and WC had an open date last week.

“It’s a concern,” Morgan said of the long layoff. You can’t simulate a game. We’ll do our best to manage around that and simulate as best we can. It’s definitely not an ideal situation.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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